We finished up last month talking about the fundamentals of what makes a great website and how you can put the “great” into yours. Having a decent website is only half the battle though… you need visitors or, as they’re collectively referred to, “traffic”. I am constantly surprised at how much time, money and effort some companies put into their website to then overlook the importance of getting prospective customers to visit it.
Build it and they come! Actually, no, they won’t.
A website is a place you want people to visit, much like a hotel: You can build a little bed and breakfast or you can build a five star palace but if nobody knows where it is, or at least that it exists, then it doesn’t matter how good the place is as you’re going broke in no time! There are two baseline factors that determine a website’s success: Traffic and conversions. The traffic, as we discussed, is all of the visitors to your site and a “conversion” is, generally speaking when a visitor either completes the process of buying something or makes an inquiry and becomes a sales lead. It’s common to describe sales as a “funnel” so think of your website as being just like a plastic funnel. The more water (traffic) you pour into the top, the more conversions (leads or sales) will fall out of the bottom… that’s logical right? Well, not quite, because how much actually comes out of the bottom will vary and will be determined by how good your website is.
A good website will convert more traffic into sales and leads so, once you have plenty of traffic, your main challenge will be to convert more and more of it. The worse your website is for a visitor, the more holes you have in your funnel letting water pour out of the sides so always aim to have a great website from the beginning. Invest at the start or it will cost you a hell of a lot later.
Generating Traffic: Inbound versus Outbound.
Traffic is all about the here and now; with digital marketing, we are targeting people in real-time. Prospective customers you will want to reach will be either actively looking for what you are selling or are not actively looking but could be interested if you make them aware of what you offer. This is where inbound and outbound marketing comes in: Inbound marketing is for reaching prospects who are looking for what you do with the aim of pulling them in, outbound is about reaching those who are not looking by pushing advertising communications out to them. The best strategy will usually have a mixture of both, so let’s move straight on to the most common methods and look at their pros and cons.
The Most Commons Methods for Generating Traffic.
There are countless ways to drive traffic to your website but I’m going to focus on the most common and effective digital (online) methods; the ones we use every day for our clients. All of the examples below are things that you could attempt to do yourself but, if you are spending money, do so with caution. An expert will get results much cheaper than you can!
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)SEO is a method of getting your website to rank better in search engines the natural way, rather than paying to come up at the top of Google as a Sponsored Ad. The saying goes that if you can dominate search you can potentially dominate your area of business so put it at the heart of your website marketing strategy. Most marketers now agree it is possibly the most important method of all but it is a medium to long-term strategy. Results take time to achieve but they will increase over time and cost you less in the long run. There are some tools, such as Yoast, that will help you to improve your ranking by automatically addressing basic issues with your site. These are a great start but are no replacement for hiring experts to manually improve your site ranking. If you are going to hire experts, avoid the cheap offshore SEO companies that charge around $100 per month – get a tried and tested company you can trust and pay the extra. For expertise, and therefore results, you get what you pay for.
- Search Engine Marketing / Sponsored Search (SEM)SEM is a collective term for both inbound and outbound marketing on search engines. Google Ads and Bing Ads are the two most common platforms. Using these tools you can create ad campaigns that target prospects based on things they have searched for, their recent browsing history and aspects of their personal profile and interests. For inbound, you can sponsor search results so that your ad comes up right at the top of Google or Bing but it can be very expensive (whereas SEO is essentially FREE). You “bid” an amount, typically per click to your website, and the highest bidder generally gets the top listings. A click can cost you anything from 15p to £15 depending on how popular and contested the search term is, and also how good your campaign is. Quality campaigns that have a better response have much lower costs per click.
- Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)The above platforms, which are both very similar, also enable you to run (outbound) display ads and put them in front of a designated target audience. Most popular platforms provide a PPC advertising function: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIN, Instagram, Messenger… you name it, there are hundreds if not thousands of options. This is a vast and complex area because now we have the power to push ads in front of people who fit precise criteria, right place, right time, right message. There are tools to push ads in front of people if they have previously visited your site, searched for what you offer, or have looked at related content. The possibilities are endless. If you are going to invest money in a PPC campaign I always advise clients to pick the optimal channels, not the most obvious channels. By this, I mean the most cost-effective because a quality click is a quality click regardless of where it came from. Google Ads and LinkedIN are typically the most expensive – why pay £3 per click if you can get good clicks for £0.15 from Facebook or Twitter? It’s all about picking the right channels and using them in the right way.
- Email MarketingLast but not least is email marketing, e-shots, e-blasts whatever you may know them by. I stress very quickly here that emails have come under much stronger regulations since the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) last year. If you are targeting domestic consumers then I would avoid email marketing other than to a list you have built yourself. However, if you are targeting businesses, email marketing could be your ace in the hole. Many companies have panicked and have stopped email marketing; something they simply did not need to do as Article 6.1f (Legitimate Interest) states that it is absolutely acceptable to prospect a business contact by email without their consent. This has given the method a new lease of life as people are receiving less spam email from UK businesses and are, surprisingly, more responsive to it as a result. My brief advice is to buy a quality data list of your target business prospects, as many as you can afford, and email them 1-2 times per month. Personal-feeling, written emails work ten times better than designed HTML emails so use this approach, or send a rich email and follow it up within 10 days with a text email.
All of the above methods, bar SEO, can define a specific entry point on your website that the visitor will be taken to on clicking your search result or your ad. Make sure they are taken to a strong “landing page” that connects with what they clicked and that drives them to convert. Otherwise, they will leave your site as fast as they arrived and that will cost you money. A strong campaign and landing pages will pay dividends as they reduce your “bounce rate”, increase your “quality score” and these factors bring down your “Cost Per Click (CPC)”. Remember this: Quality ads that perform well cost less. Why? Because quality benefits everyone’s experience.
DIY? Don’t Involve Yourself. Not if you can afford it.
To finish up, sometimes you simply have to do things yourself. If you do, then you must take the time to learn as much as possible before spending money. Never rush into a paid ad campaign without sufficient knowledge. The same as you might be able to have a go at fitting a bathroom sink, rather than paying a plumber, you can do all of these things yourself to a novice extent but a little knowledge can be dangerous. You can leak cash fast on expensive clicks and wonder why the phone isn’t ringing… why is nobody converting??? Over the years, I have seen many clients waste a regrettable amount of money trying to create and run campaigns themselves. They get it wrong and simply come to the conclusion “it doesn’t work for my business”. This is a fallacy. These systems look simple on the surface but are very complex underneath. They are great at spending your money and spending it fast, so they are not for the novice.
If you can afford to, always hire digital marketing experts to create strong, quality campaigns that use your marketing budget as effectively as possible. They will deliver more paying customers for less. If you have to do it yourself, don’t spend a penny until you have really done your homework… and then some!
Here, at TFA, we have an expert team that can help you with your marketing needs, get in touch today.
Written for, and featured in Pulse Magazine